[05] The Discount Balance - How To Promo Email Without Offering Anothe – Email Growth Society

[05] The Discount Balance - How To Promo Email Without Offering Another Discount

CWEG 05 | Promo Email


Every brand I start to work with is always so focused on promotions - and offering discount codes. They don't even think there are a ton of different options out there that can encourage sales but more importantly - email engagement. Our job with email is to condition our recipients to see value, thus conditioning them to open our emails. This requires balance. In this episode, I share a ton of ways to promo without offering a discount. I call it - the discount balance!

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The Discount Balance - How To Promo Email Without Offering Another Discount

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I’m ready to rock a hot topic, especially for eCommerce and direct-to-consumer brands, the great discount balance. Before we do that, I wanted to make sure to update you on a few things. First, we are now in May 2021. If you haven’t read the bonus episode, May ‘21 email ideas, I recommend it. It will give you some unique ways to stand out in your recipient’s inbox, help to encourage sales, and integrate email with other channels, which is always a bonus.

Next, I will also be offering an email intensive to help business owners of startups and small businesses get their email program started. This will be a live five-week course that will cover email goal setting all the way through setting up some lifecycle programs and email campaigns. If you are interested, email me at Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com to be added to the enrollment waitlist.

I have heard it a million times, “We need more promos,” said almost every company trying to sell a product or service. After auditing their email, that is all they have, 2 to 12 promos going out every month. Some are super cringe-worthy, too. No judgment if this is your brand. They have one deal that they are emailing out multiple times a month packaged with a different headline that correlates to the time of year.

An example of this is maybe the discount is a BOGO on their product, and they are using this BOGO every single email but the headline is sometimes Stimulus Savings or Memorial Day Sale. With that said, let's do an exercise. I want you to think of a brand that has done this to you. Remove yourself out of the business owner, “I need to sell more of my product,” and think closely at opening up your inbox and seeing promo after promo. How does this make you feel?

CWEG 05 | Promo Email


With my email marketing hat removed, as a consumer, I find the emotions a bit overwhelming. First, I always feel like I should wait. If I wait, I am bound to get a better promo. Next, I get numb to seeing these. The brand pops up in my inbox and delete because they have conditioned me to know there is only a promo in that email, no real value. Since I don't want to buy anything, I don't even need to look at it, and slowly, I will stop looking altogether.

Do you see this? This is what we call recipient conditioning. It is a huge factor in your email marketing success and reconditioning is hard. You have to have the right balance with your email marketing to avoid being totally ignored or, even worse, getting spam complaints and having your email end up in the Gmail promotions folder until the end of time. The balance lies in value. You have to serve up 80% value-oriented email and 20% of the time, promotions offering discounts. In reality, promos never offer value. I don't care how you want to swing this one but they don't.

The primary focus of a promotional email is to get the word out to potential customers or leads about your product or service. Common email promotions include coupons or other discounts, access to exclusive content or maybe in the best-case scenario, add minutes to an invitation-only event. At the end of the day, you are looking for a direct response of some kind.

If you are hinging your email marketing success on a majority of promotional emails and offering discounts every single time, you are going to increase your list churn as users will begin to be conditioned to wait and potentially ignore as they will associate your brand with little value and always needing to buy something. To achieve balance, you can still do a promotional-style email without offering discounts. This should be your 80% of the time play, then 20% of the time, you offer a fun, exciting discount that will get recipients excited.

Bundle Your Products 

Let's explore some ways to promo without offering discounts. First, bundles if you can take your products and bundle them somehow. For instance, maybe you are a supplement company and sell a variety of vitamins that can solve a bunch of different things. If your persona is looking for energy boosts, you could create an energy boost bundle by taking three of your products that would increase energy bundling them for savings.

You can then serve up an email that specifically talks about energy drains, the times of day, and how to sustain balanced energy through the day and offer up this bundle at the end. That is a good way to add value but not to come out and say, “Use promo code DISCOUNT15 at checkout.” It adds value. The bundle is going to be great because they can see value in those products due to what you serve them up for contact.

For 80% of the time, you need to serve value-oriented email and 20% for promotions offering discounts.

Next, we have relevance to the product. With that, we are talking about how you can use a time of the year, day of the week or something important based on a calendar to align with your product. Some of the May ideas were on this topic. For instance, May is Allergy Awareness Month. If you can align your product to reduce histamines, hypoallergenic properties, if you are gluten-free or soy-free, this is a perfect way to use the relevance to the product. You can sell as much introducing your product under a relevant topic.

Perhaps something is going on in the world. That's a big deal. We could use the COVID pandemic. When it first hit, some companies were able to align products as a value-add for people to see a lot of value in that product due to the relevance happening in the world at the time. This is a great way to move away from those crazy promotional emails. If you follow the show, I will offer email tips ahead of the given month every month but look ahead and see what's going on. Try to be agile and use the relevant topics to align your products so that you can sell more products based on value. This is a great way.

The third way is educational topic to a product. You have got to sit down and jot your thought leadership uniques. That is one thing I always recommend to brands. If you know who your personas are, you need to start a content map of your persona in the center and then all of the topics, pains, and challenges they go through around that persona. You can then go, “I can talk about this pain, and here's the product that solves that pain.” This is such a great way to serve up your product and your brand but also to become a thought leader.

I will tell you a story. I have a lot of clients that traditionally are on Amazon, and you know the typical Amazon buyer, you might be one yourself, are discount-motivated. That is just how they are. They feel like they have some loyalty and discount being an Amazon customer because of Prime and free shipping. A lot of times the products are a little bit cheaper there.

When we serve up communications to Amazon customers, we find in the research that we have done that they respond well to promos but are like the group before. You can't give in to that strategy because you know they like promos because they don't buy frequently. We want to have people engaging with our emails, opening them up all the time. We want the engagement from the top at the open rate so we can get them to buy our product. You have to condition these folks to be better at opening the email. Maybe the topic will resonate.

When we do this migration, we are trying to get Amazon customers to start purchasing in Shopify or on the web. We see educational topics are the way to move these customers because for the first time ever, they have stopped looking at your product as, “I need a magnesium supplement, so I'm going to buy it at the cheapest discount on Amazon,” to, “I’ve got this email about all these tips and tricks about magnesium. Did you know I also needed B12 because the education was there?

CWEG 05 | Promo Email


My point is you should create a content map that allows you to understand all those pains, and then you can start writing these emails. It’s super organic to layer in a product. That is a great tactic. Another way to promo without offering discounts is through loyalty and reward points. You can do certain times of the year, I know a couple of my clients do it every quarter, you can say, “You are going to get a loyalty or reward point. It's double the points this weekend for purchases of $50 or more.” That's a great way. It's a nice way because you acknowledge the loyalty of the customer.

People love getting a reward. One of the best promos out there is like, “Spend $50 and get a $10 gift card for every $50 you spend.” It’s because people like getting something back. We always think that they want to save 15% but giving them something back is great. In this case, you could do four times a year, “We are doing our double, triple the loyalty reward points based off of a purchase amount.”

In this email, you can offer user-generated content that shows the fan favorites of the month or the quarter. That's a good way. People love that stuff. They love seeing what others are doing with your products, so great idea. Another simple way if you are going to run a promo, sometimes think about leaving your customers out of it. I know this sounds crazy but you have heard me say this over and over in almost every episode. You have to have your lists segmented into leads and customers. They have to be treated differently.

We are looking for customers as a lifetime value, and we can usually get our customers to purchase with all of the above tactics. What we don't want to do with our customers is get promo fatigue with them. For instance, if you know you are going to be running several promos for a month, find a few that your customers can be left out of, and you can do it for leads only in conversion attempts to get them to purchase for the first time and move over to the customer side of the fence. This is an easy one, and I want to bring it up so you can consider that.

Another one that's super easy to layer into an email is recommended for you based on your last purchase. I can't stress this enough. I know a lot of people are so scared to use dynamic content and dynamic elements. If you simply know that somebody purchased a set of earrings the first time, you can automatically set up a small flow that within ten days or so checks in on them, asking how they like their earrings, and recommends a couple of products based on that earring purchase. This is a good way of getting more products out there, getting in upsell but also not having to throw a discount code out there.

We want to start to think that discount codes should be rare, and when we talk about them, customers need to understand that this is the occasion to take advantage. Recommending for you based on your last purchase is a quick win. You can add this into even the bottom of emails every now and again. You would be amazed at how people love suggestions that feel like they are for them.

You need have to have your email lists segmented into leads and customers. They have to be treated differently.

Do Product-Specific Flows

Another way is you can do product-specific flows. This is a good one. If you sell multiple products, you probably have a product that sells far more than your other products. Some of these products, for instance, if we go back to the supplement example, we know that consistency with supplements is huge. We might want to layer in an email that talks about making sure they remember to reorder their original purchase.

We can create product flows that maybe are 6, 9, 12 months long that contain a few different emails, and they are specific to checking in to see how they like the product they purchased, reminding them to reorder their purchase, giving them some education on five other ways they can use this supplement. “Did you know that this supplement is great before a workout and a 3:00 PM energy boost?”

You can give them other alternative ways. You can layer in what I mentioned before. You can have an email that says, “Based on your last purchase, here's a few other products that are recommended for you.” You can also talk about Subscribe & Save if you have it. This is a perfect time to say, “Did you know that you can save time and money if you Subscribe & Save?”

By creating this flow, takes a little bit more of an upfront work lift but this one is automated and will allow you to nurture this purchase path over time, which is nice for saving time. This is a nice way to consistently get objectives met by not having to offer a discount code. Speaking of Subscribe & Save, it is another good program. If you want to send an email out that can give you back lots of opportunities, it's through Subscribe & Save. If we can touch on the key solutions that Subscribe & Save solves, then this is a great email to send.

I like to send a Subscribe & Save email often to the people that have not yet taken up Subscribe & Save. We can segment users typically knowing who is a member of Subscribe & Save, and then what we can do is we can remind those users that are still purchasing one time to join Subscribe & Save. This is another way where we can get some significant purchases. The bonus here is it is recurring revenue, and it's predictable. This is great. We think of Subscribe & Save like a membership, so this is a way for an eComm or a D2C that's not membership base to have a membership.

Last but not least, you can always offer sale items in the NAV or at the bottom of the email as a compliment to the email. That's another way to promote items without having to offer discount codes. One of my favorite examples of this is Gap. Every single email, it doesn't matter if they are talking about wearing purple for peace or if they are showcasing a brand new product launch at the bottom of the email. You always see a grid of images that shows their sales. After looking at their email data, you can tell that that is an area where a lot of people click.

CWEG 05 | Promo Email


Even if we can just encourage the click to get people to our site, that's one more chance that we are going to get somebody to purchase. That's a good way to subtly layer in that purchase path without having to offer a discount code. Before I end this episode, let's bring this to life. Remember that your cadence of how many emails you send per month will depend on feedback surveys and doing some testing.

This will be covered in another episode but let's hinge on the example of sending five emails per month, which is usually what I recommend for clients as a starting point. Imagine that we don't have any automated flows in place, all we are doing is sending five emails per month. Let's put ourselves into a brand we all know, Nike. This is what their email calendar could look like. Week one, they send an email on how to reduce pain while running. They offer educational tips on how to reduce the pain, and then the products at the bottom are running shoes that were engineered to reduce injury.

Week two, they have yoga fan favorites. This one can include some yoga tips while showcasing favorite yoga wear, and user-generated content is included here. Week three, they have members-only new merch unlocked. They are sending this email to members-only, and this is all of the new merchandise that members can jump in and purchase ahead of everybody else because they are a member. No discount is needed.

Week four, they start the week by sending weightlifting tips showcasing their Metcon shoes and their product attributes as to why they support weightlifting goals. They then follow up with a Memorial Day Sale where they are offering 50% off select styles. This is just a sample but as you can see, Nike would be able to encourage purchases through value. Bonus if you can segment your audience based on purchase habits, so you are getting relevant content to them always.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions. You can always email me at Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com. Take some time to map out a few months of your content strategy, trying to achieve balance, and move towards the 80/20 Model. Until next time, happy emailing, everyone.

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